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AP sources: US surveillance flights underway over Syria to gather intelligence on militants

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks during a press conference, giving the first public comments by a senior Assad official on the threat posed by the Islamic State group, in Damascus, Syria on Monday, August 25, 2014. Al-Moallem warned the U.S. not to conduct airstrikes inside Syria against the Islamic State group without Damascus’ consent, saying any such attack would be considered an aggression. Al-Moallem also said that Syria is ready to work with regional states and the international community amid the onslaught of Islamic militants there and in Iraq, adding that the Syrian government is a crucial partner in the war on terror. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks during a press conference, giving the first public comments by a senior Assad official on the threat posed by the Islamic State group, in Damascus, Syria on Monday, August 25, 2014. Al-Moallem warned the U.S. not to conduct airstrikes inside Syria against the Islamic State group without Damascus’ consent, saying any such attack would be considered an aggression. Al-Moallem also said that Syria is ready to work with regional states and the international community amid the onslaught of Islamic militants there and in Iraq, adding that the Syrian government is a crucial partner in the war on terror. (AP Photo/SANA)  (The Associated Press)

U.S. officials say the U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria, after President Barack Obama gave the OK — in a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militants.

While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.

One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the flights an important avenue.

Two U.S. officials said Obama had approved the flights, while another U.S. official said early Tuesday that they had begun.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.